The Southern Baptist Convention adopted a resolution at its annual conference in New Orleans last week, calling on its 15.6 million members to "direct our energies and resources toward the proclamation of the Gospel to the Jews". The 14,000 delegates at the conference agreed to the appointment of a "missionary" specially charged with spreading the faith among the Jewish people.
The Southern Baptists, a conservative religious group second only in size to the Roman Catholic Church in the US, noted in its resolution that in recent years the trend among other Christian denominations had been towards seeking mutually respectful co-existence with Jews. This was "an organised effort on the part of some either to deny that Jewish people need to come to their Messiah, Jesus, to be saved; or to claim, for whatever reason, that Christians have neither right nor obligation to proclaim the Gospel to the Jewish people".
Earlier in the week the Southern Baptist Convention had voted overwhelmingly to censure the Walt Disney Company, accusing it of encouraging homosexuality and undermining traditional family values. Delegates agreed to a resolution calling on all Southern Baptists to "boycott Disney Company stores and theme parks if they continue this anti-Christian and anti-family trend".
Undeterred by the ridicule this motion provoked, the New Orleans conference proceeded to embark on the most ambitious proselytising exercise since the Crusades. Larry Lewis, the president of the Southern Baptists' Home Mission Board, explained the thinking behind the drive to convert the Jews to Jesus. "There is a view among some that Jewish people, because they were the sons of Abraham - they were the chosen people - that they do not need to accept Christ, that if they were just good, dedicated Jews, that is all that is necessary," Mr Lewis said. "We deny that position and we denounce that position. We believe that all people need a personal vital relationship with Jesus Christ."
Jewish leaders have responded with predictable indignation, in some cases fighting back with the suggestion that maybe it is the Christians who are in need of conversion. "Especially after the Holocaust, Christians have no right to talk about a mission to the Jews," raged Rabbi Leon Klenicki of the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith. "They should talk about a mission to the Christians, because it was in Christian Europe that the Holocaust occurred."Reuse content